Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving - suggestions?

Discussion in 'Other North America/non U.S.' started by jmrich1432, Sep 21, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    I've never been to Puerto Rico and am thinking about going over Thanksgiving this year. Thinking about Old San Juan and Fajardo. If anyone has any suggestions for places to go or things to do while we're there I would really appreciate it!

    I definitely want to do the bioluminescent bay since it will be a good time to see it (based on the moon). I've heard they have pretty cool caves and waterfalls to swim in.

    Is the snorkling good?

    Thanks for any ideas!
     
  2. MSPeconomist
    Original Member

    MSPeconomist Gold Member

    Messages:
    58,563
    Likes Received:
    98,528
    Status Points:
    20,020
    IME you should expect the airport to be somewhat of a mess with long lines to check in (even for elites) and security. In addition, when I was there bags were X-rayed by agriculture before check in and this was done curbside, so don't forget to do it first. The bottom line is that you must arrive at the airport earlier than you otherwise would. Unfortunately there are few lounges and you might not be able to get to them, as I remember separate security for each concourse, so that everything airside isn't connected, with almost nothing available after I passed security.

    Some agents and airlines are confused, but PR is a USA territory. The currency is the US dollar. Nevertheless, it's convenient to use your passport for travel as it proves that you are entitled to fly to the USA from PR. Older folks, including cab drivers, don't speak much English, but anyone who grew up with cable TV does.

    Old Town is basically walkable but doesn't have a lot of good hotel choices. There's an elegant but very busy independent boutique-like hotel (small rooms and narrow hallways) in an old convent or something but IIRC it has no real pool, just a hot tub. There are a bunch of big chain hotels by the passenger ship port but none seem attractive and the area is filled with mobs when large ships dock. There isn't much right around here, except a tourist info place (maybe with tiny area history museum or rum museum/store, I don't remember clearly). The beach resorts outside of San Juan seem to be an expensive cab ride from the city (walks, fort, art museum, traditional restaurants) as well as from the airport. If you split your stay between San Juan and elsewhere (beach resort?), you will probably want a rental car for part of the time, but ideally not if you stay right in San Juan.
     
    viguera and jmrich1432 like this.
  3. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    Thanks for the airport tips! I don't think we will spend much time in San Juan on this trip. I am looking more towards the coast.
     
  4. viguera
    Original Member

    viguera Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,737
    Likes Received:
    6,913
    Status Points:
    4,745
    +1 on the Old San Juan description... very little out there and even when there's a cruise ship in town you'll be hard pressed to find much to do other than a couple of good restaurants.

    I've been to San Juan a few times and was thoroughly unimpressed by the Condado area -- don't ask why I always stay there though :) -- so you might wanna look further east.

    Don't expect much from the casinos either, but maybe I'm jaded because Vegas has spoiled me. The whole thing just feels more like New Jersey than "the Caribbean", so I haven't tried too hard to get back out there since 2010.
     
    Quasiconvexity and jmrich1432 like this.
  5. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    Thanks for the tips and descriptions. I don't think we'll spend more than a few hours in San Juan after reading your suggestions. I'm looking at Fajardo and Culebra right now, unless someone has a better idea.

    I really would like to see the bio bay and there is one near Fajardo. Beaches and snorkling are high on our group's list too. The rain forest would be cool. It's just a short trip thoough, and I would be happy to hang out on the beach and just relax!

    Has anyone tried the public transport out of San Juan? I've had some cool experiences taking the bus in other countries!
     
    Quasiconvexity likes this.
  6. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    are you still planning on going?
     
    jmrich1432 likes this.
  7. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    Hi Sweet Willie! I am still planning on going. I have my flights, but I have not yet booked accomodations since we've had some uncertainty with our travel mates. I hope to book this weekend. I am definitely planning on staying in Fajardo, it seems like a good, fairly central spot for us. Do you have any suggestions for PR??
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  8. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    yes, congrats on picking what I consider to be a Caribbean island that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Direct flights from U.S., No Customs, U.S. Dollar used, Most speak Spanish but one can get around if I don't speak Spanish???? YES PLEASE !!!

    San Juan is not really a tourist city, folks spend time here as many are on a cruise or just don't realize that the real treasures lie outside of San Juan.

    El Yunque - worth your time to hike or perhaps take a horseback ride in. There are some nearby eco-lodges that are good for a night's stay. It is fantastic to be enveloped by the rainforest as night falls. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System.

    Luquillo Beach - a terrific public beach, don't go on weekends or holidays when it will be packed with locals. It used to be a cocounut plantation, so there are rows & rows of palm trees. It is nice to swim in the ocean and look back at El Yunque. The food shacks/stalls at Luquillo are a good place to get cold Medalla beers & some cheap eats. Shacks are not for everyone but we love 'em.

    Instead of 66/Route 3 to Fajardo, consider driving 187 which goes along beautiful beaches & forest. Yes it can be difficult sometimes with signage but no big deal you simply turn around and continue where you should have gone.

    Fun place on NE coast for dinner, Richie's Cafe: www.richiescafepr.com Our mains of pork tenderloin w/tamarind glaze, & skirt steak charrasca with chimichurri sauce & a guava BBQ sauce were delicious; this hit was the appetizer of baby conch served in a warm garlic sauce (I’m going to be dreaming about this one for awhile)

    A restaurant near Fajardo (at least the El Conquistador Resort) is La Estacion www.laestacionpr.com TERRIFIC service and good food in an outdoor setting, well worthwhile. Kevin is owner and chef. We had a number of items: green papaya salad with ginger sofrito vinaigrette, Caribbean chicken wings with a spicy passion fruit sauce (I’m not a chicken wing guy, these were delicious), mofongo w/skirt steak, spare ribs w/guava BBQ sauce.

    For lodging with a more local feel, try looking at the various paradores properties which Puerto Rico uses to entice folks to get out of San Juan: www.parador.info Some serve food, a very good restaurant is the Villa Parguera on the SW coast.

    We've only been to the bioluminescent bay on the SW side of the island (after dining at Villa Parguera), tons of fun, I can only imagine the bio bay near Fajardo is neat to see as well, so go ! (I think PR has 3 or 4 bioluminescent bays)
    --
     
  9. Quasiconvexity
    Original Member

    Quasiconvexity Gold Member

    Messages:
    597
    Likes Received:
    1,784
    Status Points:
    1,020
    Thanks for the above post, Sweet Willie. We will be at the St Regis for four days over Thanksgiving and definitely plan on exploring El Yunque. The radio telescope sounds intriguing too...would you recommend a trip there? We will have a car so are planning to do a little driving around - if you have any recommendations for good spots for hiking or fun scenic drives (even if remote), please share.
     
    SC Flier and jmrich1432 like this.
  10. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    using free nights from the SPG promo? (we did last year:D)

    Sadly on our many visits to Puerto Rico, we have not been to Aricebo (radio telescope) nor the Rio Camuy Caves.

    As mentioned above, 187 (catch it just outside the airport) is a favorite route of mine. We've simply wandered through the middle of the island, even though the island is only 30 or so miles wide it will take a LONG time to get from the N coast to the S coast on these roads, but they were fun to meander on.
     
  11. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    not really. The north shore is generally all sand and quite frequently rough. Mrs Sweet Willie & I are scuba divers and the best diving we've done in PR is off of the SW & W coasts. For you divers out there, a good resort on the SW coast (w/dive shop) is Copamarina www.copamarina.com

    I think there may be decent snorkeling on Vieques or Culebra but I'm not certain.
     
    jmrich1432 likes this.
  12. Quasiconvexity
    Original Member

    Quasiconvexity Gold Member

    Messages:
    597
    Likes Received:
    1,784
    Status Points:
    1,020
    Indeed :) Will post a report on Arecibo in case we make a trip there. Thanks for the suggestions.
     
    SC Flier, jmrich1432 and Sweet Willie like this.
  13. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    Thank you so much for the suggestions! I look forward to more!

    I definitely want to spend some time in El Yunque. The rainforest and the Bio Bay are probably the things I am most excited about! We will be there during Thanksgiving weekend so Luquillo may be too crowded. I would love to spend some time at a beautiful beach, but I much prefer my beaches empty!

    I like the idea of a more scenic route for the drive to Fajardo! Do you know if my GPS will work there? Or if it's even worth trying?
    I've also heard wonderful things about the food stalls from my PR friends. I will definitely be trying them!

    Thanks again for all of the ideas! :D
     
    Sweet Willie and Quasiconvexity like this.
  14. jmrich1432
    Original Member

    jmrich1432 Silver Member

    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    846
    Status Points:
    770
    I wanted to thank everyone for the suggestions! We had a wonderful time this weekend and can't wait to return and explore another area of PR. El Yunque and the forts in Old San Juan were my favorites. Everything was beautiful and the food was delicious!

    Thanks for all of the tips and suggestions!
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  15. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    very good, we knew you'd love PR:D

    on a side note, I was discussing PR on my flight ORD-MUC, just so happens one of the folks I was talking with grew up in PR. We talked a lot about his faves & my faves, we had some ideas/opinions in common but there were more than enough places/items he mentioned where I had not been that make me know I want to get back to PR also!!
     
    jmrich1432 likes this.
  16. SC Flier
    Original Member

    SC Flier Gold Member

    Messages:
    14,851
    Likes Received:
    30,839
    Status Points:
    16,520
    Arecibo was featured in the 8/28/2012 episode of Covert Affairs.
     
  17. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,517
    Likes Received:
    4,573
    Status Points:
    2,570
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  18. SC Flier
    Original Member

    SC Flier Gold Member

    Messages:
    14,851
    Likes Received:
    30,839
    Status Points:
    16,520
    I completely agree. The main public attraction at the Rio Camuy Caves is very accessible for those who are not especially physically fit or who are at all afraid of confined spaces. IOW, it's hardly like going into an ordinary cave tour.
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  19. estnet
    Original Member

    estnet Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,749
    Likes Received:
    2,117
    Status Points:
    1,270
    There is abundant and cheap public transport. I've explored a bit by taking local bus/ferry. Very convenient from Sheraton Old Town. Ferry and buses are cheap (50 cents or less if you are over 62). Free trolleys around Old Town (great when it is hot and you are tired). Buses are air conditioned (sometimes too much) and stop at signs "Parada".
    A bus terminal is located a block from the Sheraton OT, the buses go to Condado, Isla Verde, the urban train station (haven't been on them yet) and some other places.
    You do need exact change so good to have coins.
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  20. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    IIRC, there isn't public transporation (bus) to/from SJU. Were you able to find one?
     
  21. estnet
    Original Member

    estnet Gold Member

    Messages:
    1,749
    Likes Received:
    2,117
    Status Points:
    1,270
    Yes, but not due to any help from any of the staff at the airport! No one seemed to know where the bus stop was, AIR it was on the upper level all the way to the right. You have to have exact change for the bus.
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  22. yannikoslov

    yannikoslov Member

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status Points:
    25
    We are staying 5 nights around Fajardo and plan on hiking a little in el yunque, day trip to playa flamenco, bio bay one evening, and possibly visit the fort in San Juan. Are there any highlights to PR we should consider as an alternate? Full family going so doing much more will detract from relaxation of vacation.
    Also, I have come across a lot of good reviews of local food but one thing I can't find in my searches are American restaurants. With two small children I'd like to have some familiar meals for lunch or dinner but I can't even find a McDonald's. Are there any American restaurants around fajardo?
     
    Sweet Willie likes this.
  23. viguera
    Original Member

    viguera Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,737
    Likes Received:
    6,913
    Status Points:
    4,745
    IIRC there was a McDonald's, KFC and Burger King scattered around, as well as a Subways and another chicken place. I'm sure you can find them on Google Maps at this point.

    Not sure about pizza joints though... I don't recall any from my last visit.

    Although I'm sure I won't be the last to suggest that you expose the kids to the awesomeness that is the local food, but I can understand the appeal of having a "safe" known option that you know they will eat (having a toddler myself).
     
    yannikoslov and Sweet Willie like this.
  24. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    yes, the 3 that viguera posts about above come to mind. You'll also find pizza joints, some chain ones like Pizza Hut as well.

    I really like the last statement viguera makes:
    I would HIGHLY suggest that you call ahead to a few restaurants that the adults will like and ask what the kid's meals are. I'm guessing that many restaurants will have burgers, fried shrimp or other kiddy friendly meals, while the adults can partake of some of the great food Puerto Rico offers.
     
  25. Sweet Willie
    Original Member

    Sweet Willie Gold Member

    Messages:
    4,048
    Likes Received:
    8,739
    Status Points:
    7,270
    If anyone is staying at the St Regis (& doesn't get free breakfast due to status) or the Wyndham Rio Mar or other Rio Grande area lodging, I high urge you to go to La Familia Bakery for breakfast (not just baked goods). http://lafamiliabakery.com

    The Revoltillo breakfast is scrambled eggs, ham, tomato, onion, all for <$3. Plus they have breakfast sandwiches as well. The lunch sandwiches (like Cubano sandwiches) are cheap and delicious as well.

    The first time we stayed at the St Regis I was SPG plat so of course took advantage of the free breakfast on resort. Last time we stayed, I didn't have access to the free breakfast and wasn't going to shell out the $, La Familia was a terrific option, I'd go out and grab breakfast to eat back on our patio, the Mrs appreciated the extra sleep time & cheap me loved the delicious yet low priced breakfast.
     
    yannikoslov and viguera like this.

Share This Page